SMART board to address LPG tanker storage in Schellville

Critics maintain flood-prone tracks a dangerous place for gas tankers.|

Directors of the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit authority are expected to meet next week to discuss the agency’s responsibility for managing the freight-hauling operations on its tracks – as well as the future of the liquid petroleum gas tanker cars stored throughout much of the winter on SMART-owned tracks in Sonoma Valley.

The storing of as many as 80 LPG tankers at a time on tracks in Schellville has been a point of contention with area residents, as well as 1st District Supervisor Susan Gorin, since the Northwestern Pacific Railroad (NWP) tankers first rolled onto the southern Sonoma Valley tracks in 2016. Critics of storing the potentially hazardous gas tankers in the area called it a threat to public safety.

In 2017, the SMART board came to a 30-year agreement with the North Coast Railroad Authority, which owns the freight rights to the tracks, and Northwestern Pacific Railroad to allow the rail company to continue storing the tankers south of Sonoma. At the time, SMART General Manager Farhad Mansourian described the agreement as the safest solution for SMART which, if a federal transportation board were to rule in favor of an NWP appeal, might be subject to allowing LPG tankers stored anywhere upon the shared track, including areas of passenger service.

“This agreement limits the hazardous materials storage only to LPG, and only to one area,” Mansourian said following the agreement, according to the Press Democrat.

Gorin at the time described herself as “not pleased” by the agreement allowing the tankers to stay in Schellville, “one of the most fragile, and vulnerable areas in the County and an area highly susceptible to flooding and bay level rise.”

In an email this week to 1st District supporters, Gorin reemphasized her concerns about the sensitive location of the tankers. “The LPG tanker cars… are normally stored on the dual tracks south of Fremont Drive,” wrote Gorin. “But if that area is threatened by flooding, the rail cars are moved around the Valley, often close to the Sonoma Raceway along Arnold Drive.”

SMART has said it is prone to moving the tankers to higher ground when flooding in the Schellville area is a problem, as it can be during heavy rains.

The SMART board meeting takes place Wednesday, Nov. 17, at 1:30 p.m. Visit for the Zoom link.

Another public meeting is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 14, at 12:30 p.m. at the Schellville Fire Department. Supervisor Susan Gorin and SMART General Manager Farhad Mansourian will address the issue of the LPG tankers in Schellville with neighbors and residents.

Email Jason Walsh at

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